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Whooping cough rates still high

Stacey Illingworth with her seven week old daughter Sativah Lammas who has whooping cough.

Stacey Illingworth with her seven week old daughter Sativah Lammas who has whooping cough.

Partners of pregnant women and others living in the same household are now eligible for a free pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination in Waikato as public health officials try to get on top of the epidemic.

Waikato DHB introduced free vaccinations for pregnant women in November last year for women from 20 weeks of pregnancy up to a fortnight after the birth of their babies.

Today medical officer of health Dr Felicity Dumble widened the local programme to include pregnant women’s partners and other household members at no cost to them.

There are only limited stocks of vaccine purchased by the DHB available until the end of September for partners and household contacts of newborn babies.

“We know pregnant women are getting the pertussis vaccine – from Waikato DHB stock we’re aware of at least 700,” said Dr Dumble.

“GPs can also offer the vaccine to pregnant women of 28 to 38 weeks gestation funded by the Ministry of Health programme.”

Limited stock of vaccine is available until the end of September.

“I’m urging people to get vaccinated. Whooping cough is tiresome for adults but can have devastating, sometimes deadly impacts on the baby.

“While our vaccination programme has had some successes and we are seeing a decline in reported cases, we are not out of the woods yet.

“Waikato is still one of the higher featuring areas and we are concerned about our babies and families,” said Dr Dumble.

There were 17 reported cases of pertussis last month bringing the number for the five months of this year up to 205 compared to 63 at the same time last year.

Babies are unable to get their vaccinations until they are six weeks old making them vulnerable to getting whooping cough sometime in those first 42 days of life.

Whooping cough is a very contagious illness that commonly results in bouts of severe coughing.

“The illness can cause babies to stop breathing. Severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, collapsed lungs, or even brain damage or death,” said Dr Dumble.

“It’s frightening for parents to see, and we are continuing to have babies hospitalised in the Waikato.

“Cocooning your newborn baby should help provide early protection until baby has completed vaccines at six weeks, three months and five months of age,” said Dr Dumble.

Facts about pertussis and the vaccine:

  • Around seven out of 10 babies who get pertussis before the age of six months need hospitalisation, and one in 30 of those hospitalised die from pertussis infection.
  • Severe coughing can temporarily stop the oxygen supply to the brain (hypoxia). In around two per 1000 children, pertussis leads to permanent brain damage, paralysis, deafness, or blindness.
  • Secondary infections such as pneumonia and ear infections can also occur.
  • The disease is usually milder in adolescents and adults.
  • The pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is a subunit vaccine. Subunit vaccines are not live and are generally considered safe in pregnancy. “Live” vaccines are not recommended in pregnancy.
  • The vaccine provides protection against whooping cough to 84 – 88 per cent of those who receive


General media enquiries
Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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